Kreature Feature started off as an educational presentation at our monthly general staff meetings here at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Now in its fourth month and increasingly popular among Aquarium staff, we decided it’s only right to extend the knowledge and fun to our readers here on our website. Every month PA to Head of Education Katja Rockstroh presents a different animal that we have here at the Aquarium and tells our colleagues more about it. Usually she uncovers some rather interesting facts about the various animals she researches. She also makes sure to entertain her co-workers …

The Anglerfish (Anntennarius commerson)

This is our anglerfish, specifically a giant anglerfish, which can grow up to 38 cm long. They come in various colours, such as blue, green, yellow, orange and red. Ours is a lovely black and rather reminds me of a starry sky. He was donated to us by a private aquarium owner.

The anglerfish. Photo by Katja Rockstroh

Anglerfish are so called because of their antenna-like appendage on their head, fittingly called a rod and a lure. The more scientific names for the rod and lure are the illicium and the esca respectively.

Image courtesy www.frogfish.ch

Anglerfish are also called frogfish in some parts of the world, with the exception of Australia as they actually have other fish called toadfish that are not related to anglerfish at all. So to avoid confusion anglerfish are just anglerfish over there.

The giant anglerfish’s range extends all the way from the eastern coast of South Africa to Japan. The giant anglerfish lives in warm tropical waters in between corals or in wrecks. There are however many different species of anglerfish that range in habitats from 2m deep in coral reefs to several kilometres deep in the abyssal zones of the ocean. Deep-sea cousins of our giant anglerfish look more like this:

Image courtesy Flickr/Matt Danko (Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

They are the stuff of nightmares, but I rather like them.

Giant anglerfish do not move much, apart from when they feed, and have developed into rather slow and ungainly looking fish. They do not have a swim bladder as most bony fish do, and so they cannot swim very well at all. Instead, their fins act more like feet and one can observe them almost "walking" on the bottom.

When they are hungry is when they are most interesting. Anglerfish are ambush predators. This means they lie in wait and strike when a suitable source of food comes along. They use their rod and lure to "fish" … No pun intended. Once the prey is close, they open their mouth wide, create air suction and suck their prey into their mouth in an astonishing 0.006 seconds. This method of feeding is called suction feeding and anglerfish are the fastest in the world.

Watch this video and see anglerfish in action:

Next time you visit us, be sure to check out this rather unassuming but quite remarkable fisherman of the ocean. Until the next Kreature Feature!

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